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Online Workshop: managing work-life balance


This is the transcript of the TrainingZONE online workshop on the topic of managing work-life balance held on Tuesday 1 August.

Stephanie Phillips Hi Lynn. We'll wait a few minutes to see who turns up today!

Lynn Jackson Hi Stephanie, this is my first workshop.

Stephanie Phillips Hi Lynn - hopefully we'll get a good discussion going. Hi Shirley - just waiting for a few more people to show.

Shirley Borrett Hi, my first time in one of these sessions - hope it's as easy as it seems :-)

Stephanie Phillips Yes, hopefully you'll both find it straightforward!

Shirley Borrett Does my name appear on your screen or do I need to enter it? .... Shirley

Stephanie Phillips No, we automatically see it! You just need to be aware that sometimes people post comments and they get out of sync, so it's worth adding the name you're addressing the comment to if it's not obvious!

Stephanie Phillips HI Tim, hi Sue - it's looking a bit busier now!

Shirley Borrett Thanks Stephanie! Are you working from an office, a home or from some other location? What about others?

Stephanie Phillips I'm in the office. Tim is the MD for the site, he normally works from home. It'd be interesting to see how peoples working days compare depending on where they work from.

Stephanie Phillips Here's a question - how long do you expect to work for today?

Lynn Jackson I'm from home/office/bedroom.....

Stephanie Phillips (hi Andrew - check the transcript to see the chat so far).

Lynn Jackson I expect to work from 8 until 5 tonight.

Stephanie Phillips Thanks Lynn - is that usual for you?

Lynn Jackson I *try* to get a bit of exercise in earlier, but that's about the norm.

Shirley Borrett Today I started at 8.30, will work 'til 2 - 2.30, then take 2 or three hours off, then probably work another one or two early evening.

Lynn Jackson er.. 8 am to 5pm, sorry....

Stephanie Phillips Seems like you both have quite a good length of working day on the whole. I'm normally in the office from 845 to about 5.30. What about Andrew and Sue?

Shirley Borrett Stephanie, do you always work in the office or do you have some flexibility to work from home?

Stephanie Phillips Yes, there can be, although I haven't tried it yet! Quite a few of our editors do work from home, and I think it would suit me to do so now and then - I'd like the flexibility.

Sue Simpson My days vary. Today I should have been in office for 7am but car broke down! If I am working from home I generally do the split shift to accommodate children. e.g. 7am start - 8am kids off to school back for 9am - 4pm works for me well.

Stephanie Phillips I've been reading a lot about this in the papers of late, because of the whole issue around family-friendly policies, and then there's the working time directive. Has anyone had any direct experience of these?

Shirley Borrett I've worked from home (not always AT home :-)) for about 12 years now, first as a corporate employee and more recently running my own business. My experience is it takes a long time to work out what works for you!

Sue Simpson We operate a system under the working time directive. It has not made any difference to my working pattern.

Stephanie Phillips There's also the whole thing about whether technology actually helps to speed things up or just makes it more likely you will work longer hours - e-mail etc. can be checked anywhere these days!

Lynn Jackson I have been out of an office, environment for 5 months, but I haven't got out of the office mentality (i.e. guilt if you're away from your desk) if you're not with a client.

Shirley Borrett There's a danger that home based working gets seen as linked to family friendly policies and a nice HR initiative thing to do. Lots of evidence says it's great for productivity and not because you necessarily work more hours.

Stephanie Phillips My thoughts are that actually the working time directive had far too many opt out clauses - I used to work in HR in broadcasting, where people often need to be available to work long outside broadcast shifts, and they simply signed an opt out to say they were happy to work longer hours.

Shirley Borrett Lynn, my experience was that getting away from the guilt trip took a long time and some conscious effort!

Sue Simpson It does increase the opportunity to work at any time and that is where, I think we need to develop our own discipline and as Stephanie suggests find out what suits you best.

Stephanie Phillips Shirley - do you think that there's a problem with people's attitude towards flexible working - don't some people expect to 'see' you working?

Lynn Jackson Even I expect to see me working!

Lynn Jackson (Thanks Shirley, I'll have to start getting out more!)

Shirley Borrett Re: seeing you working! My experience with clients is that it's generally the less effective managers who need to "see" people - you can get away with being a lousy manager if everyone's there but only good managers cope well with remote workers.

Stephanie Phillips We've covered the issue of remote working in a previous workshop - it generated some interesting discussions!

Sue Simpson Re: see you working I would like to think I am appreciated for what I achieve not the hours I sit behind a desk.

Lynn Jackson Good managers want to see result and will support you to get them.

Shirley Borrett Lynn, I found that keeping some record of what I was achieving rather than how long I was working really helped - as well as keep telling myself that "being productive is more important than being present"

Stephanie Phillips Yes, it is definitely to do with quality rather than quantity.

Marcus Webb I work as a contractor in the IT zone which is a little more lenient towards the timetable of working but they expect higher productivity and the quality issue is something that is obviously important in that arena.

Shirley Borrett Yes Marcus one difficulty with a lot of work is that the outputs are difficult to measure so people concentrate on 'presenteeism'.

Marcus Webb Bizarrely enough, given that IT facilitates most remote working situations presenteeism is crucial to them.

Stephanie Phillips Can I ask what people think about the technology thing in general? is having the PC there all the time helpful or a hassle sometimes?

Shirley Borrett Marcus - didn't understand what you mean by "presenteeism is crucial to them"?

Sue Simpson Need to leave - good to talk to you all.

Shirley Borrett Re PCs being there - I can only say that if my PC is not available I feel like I've had an arm chopped off - most of my work is done via email and creative software.

Lynn Jackson On the whole, I love my PC. My work revolves around creating material, researching and most importantly, communicating.

Marcus Webb To answer both points, Shirley, What I mean is that they expect to see a face in the office regardless, for some reason they have no idea that teleworking is a possibility in the IT arena. Having said that I'd e lost these days without the technology to run the business at home as well as provide consultancy at work.

Stephanie Phillips that's really interesting - you know, these surveys which say that technology is making people's lives a misery must be getting some odd information!

Shirley Borrett Lynn, likewise re research and communication. As well as creating training material I'm now involved in a 'virtual' web company - we couldn't operate without the Internet to communicate through.

Marcus Webb Without wishing to appear to be flippant, I know what they mean by that. It makes IT peoples lives very difficult, but some users have a great deal of trouble coming to terms with the challenges presented by technology.

Stephanie Phillips It seems like we've been lucky to get people here who are able to manage their time well! That's another issue, isn't it - some people think they need to overload themselves so they're 'indispensable'!

Lynn Jackson I have come upon martyrs I'm afraid.

Marcus Webb Stephanie, that has been my downfall in the past and it is a very hard lesson to learn.

Lynn Jackson Sorry, Marcus no offence meant!

Stephanie Phillips Giving stuff to someone else is difficult, isn't it? And apparently lots of HRDers fail to take their holiday entitlement!

Marcus Webb None taken, Lynn.

Marcus Webb The problem is not so much being able to delegate as being able to delegate when you are uncertain that the results will be appropriate.

Stephanie Phillips Isn't that to do with having to trust someone else, or is it because you have to take the flak if something goes wrong?

Marcus Webb Possibly it is a bit of both, but it also comes down to relevant experience. If you don't have the staff with the relevant experience no amount of delegation is going to help you.

Lynn Jackson And gaining experience take time...

Stephanie Phillips Understood - that's a development issue, and that's probably a different workshop!

Stephanie Phillips It would have been interesting to get some people who were struggling with their work-life balance, but I guess everyone here seems pretty happy with their set-up?

Stephanie Phillips If so, what are the key things to maintaining that balance?

Lynn Jackson Oh, don't get that idea Stephanie!

Stephanie Phillips Oh, sorry, do tell then!

Marcus Webb I'm not entirely happy with my set up at the moment. For example, I would like to be working right now. Not that this isn't interesting.

Lynn Jackson My balance, is still to be able to 'chill out' - I don't have the work but I have the time...

Lynn Jackson I suppose I want the work and the time!

Stephanie Phillips Marcus - I'd hate to think that the workshop was interfering! Hopefully they are a chance to take time out and discuss!

Stephanie Phillips Lynn - maybe you can't have it all??!

Marcus Webb Nope, it is most definitely not interfering. I am currently between roles. It is also helpful to get other people's perspectives on this issue.

Lynn Jackson I have a suspicion that I'll never have 'enough' work...

Stephanie Phillips (Hi again Shirley - we were asking whether any of us had the work-life balance thing sorted out!)

Shirley Borrett Talking of technology - it dropped me out and it's taken nearly 10 minutes to get back in - so working remotely isn't always a doddle!

Stephanie Phillips All - I'm going to have to bring things to an end in a minute, I'm afraid. Any last thoughts/things you'd like to raise?

Shirley Borrett I guess 'sorted out' can have lots of implications. I do think you have to be disciplined in one way - i.e. balancing things but flexible in lots of ways.

Shirley Borrett Yes, lets look carefully at the motive behind certain surveys :-)

Stephanie Phillips Shirley - I'd definitely agree with both points!

Marcus Webb Flexibility is the key to all of this, but you can never be entirely satisfied, I think. You have to strike a happy medium.

Lynn Jackson I did find that initially it was a great comfort to have a timetable to my work (admin in the morning creativity the afternoon), but now I realize that I need more flexible way.

Stephanie Phillips flexibility plus discipline works, then - difficult to do both though!

Shirley Borrett Lynn I find that certain times of day are better for me for creativity - it can't be forced just because of what the clock says!

Stephanie Phillips talking of which, the clock says that it's time to wind things up!

Shirley Borrett Yes I found it difficult at first but a lot of it is in the mind - as well as knowing what you need to produce by when and then being relaxed about the times at which you work to achieve it.

Lynn Jackson I dislike the admin - I need the energy for it, creativity is fun and relaxing (for me!:)

Marcus Webb Okay. Nice to have seen this. I will look forward to the next session.

Stephanie Phillips Thanks all for being active participants - hope to see you at another workshop in the near future!

Shirley Borrett Lynn - yes I get "creative avoidance" when it comes to a lot of admin - I give myself rewards like a walk in the garden, at each milestone.

Shirley Borrett Yes, now I've tried it I'll look out for more that interest me.

Stephanie Phillips Hopefully it won't throw you out next time!

Lynn Jackson Many thanks, I'll join again.

Marcus Webb Goodbye for now and best of luck to you all in the future. See you again soon.

Stephanie Phillips Bye all, and thanks again.


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